Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 6 – ‘Reunion, Part 1’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, David Ackroyd, Gary Ewing, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Reunion Part 1

Meet the parents

“Reunion, Part 1” is almost all hat and no cattle. “Dallas’s” second-season opener has a good story to tell, but it spends too much time re-introducing the audience to the Ewings, who had been off the air for four-and-a-half months when the episode debuted.

Consider the lengthy opening sequence, which finds the family lazing around the Southfork swimming pool.

Miss Ellie reminisces about growing up on the ranch and there are small moments to remind us J.R. is greedy, Lucy is bratty and Pam’s relationship with her in-laws is frosty, but nothing happens to advance the plot. Audiences might have welcomed the refresher 34 years ago, but today it looks like filler.

Even Gary, who should be this episode’s central figure, becomes a device to reacquaint us with the regular characters.

When “Dallas” begins, Gary is described as a drunk who beat his wife Valene before abandoning her and Lucy, but in this episode, he’s depicted as a recovering alcoholic who dabbles in painting and horseback riding. By making Gary a gentler soul, “Dallas” is able to draw a sharper contrast between him and his family, reminding us just how cutthroat they are.

But Gary isn’t the only Ewing to undergo a personality change.

With this episode, Sue Ellen is transformed from Southfork’s resident mouse into its version of Lady Macbeth. The scene where she lashes out at J.R. and tells him his “little brother Bobby” is taking away his power offers the first great spat between J.R. and Sue Ellen, who raise marital squabbling to an art form as “Dallas” progresses.

Of course, Southfork itself gets the biggest makeover of all.

“Reunion, Part 1” marks the first appearance of the “real” Southfork – another ranch stood in as the Ewings’ home during the first season – making this the first episode where “Dallas” really begins to look like “Dallas.”

“Reunion, Part 1” is also the first of many “Dallas” installments filmed in Texas during the summertime, and it’s nice to finally see a little sunshine on this show, even though we know the Ewings face plenty of dark days ahead.

Grade: B

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Dallas, David Ackroyd, Gary Ewing, Reunion Part 1

There’s something about Gary

‘REUNION, PART 1’

Season 2, Episode 1

Airdate: September 23, 1978

Audience: 9.3 million homes, ranking 56th in the weekly ratings

Writer: David Jacobs

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: In Las Vegas, Bobby and Pam run into his long-lost brother Gary and bring him home to Southfork, where Gary’s daughter Lucy is overjoyed to see him. She arranges a reunion between Gary and her mother Valene, whom Lucy has been secretly visiting. J.R., with prodding from his wife Sue Ellen, begins plotting to get rid of Gary.

Cast: David Ackroyd (Gary Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Hugh Gorrian (Tom), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Philip Levien (Jimmy Monahan), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing)

“Reunion, Part 1” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. The original Gary! It’s amazing to me the extent to which Dallas recasted characters, sometimes multiple times (Gary, Kristen, Jenna, even Miss Ellie). Do shows do that anymore? I feel like today they would just make a new character in the same archetype.

    • I like the original Gary a lot. I liked Ted Shackelford a lot, too, but David Ackroyd brought something different to the role.

    • Dan in WI says:

      As someone who has never had a desire to watch Knotts Landing, David Ackroyd is my Gary Ewing.

      Anyway the goofiest part of this episode is hearing that iconic Dallas theme played over the establishing shots of the Las Vegas strip. There is something not right about that.

      • That is the nuttiest part of the episode, Dan. I suppose the people who made this episode in 1978 never expected that theme music to become iconic. Hearing it play while seeing those shots if Las Vegas is bizarre.

  2. 2 things

    1) I was so surprise (I see right now this episode for the first time, if I remember well) to listen JR tell to Sue ellen than he never want gary goes out, but try to convince hime to stay, but it was gary wich want to leaves. I hope this story could be true

    2) I don’t understand why JR hates valene so much

    • My thought: Valene bore the Ewings their first grandchild, many years before he and Sue Ellen conceived John Ross. I suspect this fact, in addition to J.R.’s general snobbery (he dislikes Val because she’s poor), is the source of his animosity toward her. He’s more threatened by Val than anything else.

  3. Maryann says:

    The scene I liked in this episode is the one where Bobby confronts Jock about treating Digger so badly when he came to the Barbeque to make peace. I can never see JR, Ray or Gary being strong and man enough to stand up to Jock like Bobby. He was never afraid to stand up to anyone not even his father, this is one of the reasons I loved Bobby.

    • Good observation, Maryann. Comments like these make me want to go back and re-critique the show’s earliest episodes. Thank you!

    • Interesting observation by Maryann but totally on point. Bobby WAS the only one who ever stood up to Jock. Not even JR! Even when JR thought he was doing something “right” (for the company), he seemed to shrink when Jock called him out on it. I’d have to go through the episodes to find the specific example I’m thinking of to illustrate the point.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Reunion, Part 1,” “Dallas’s” second-season opener, Jock (Jim Davis) is on the Southfork driveway with J.R. and […]

  2. […] not a big fan of “Reunion, Part 1,” but I love “Reunion, Part 2.” The writing and acting are […]

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